24th September 2012

Today the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) announced it has commissioned a review into how it responds to people with mental health conditions. The review “will carry out an examination of cases from over the last five years where someone with a mental health condition has either died or been seriously injured following contact with the police” (MPS press release 24 September 2012).

The MPS has said that the review will be conducted by a Commission to be chaired by Lord Victor Adebowale and made up of leading mental health experts including clinicians, NHS Trusts and voluntary sector bodies. However, the eleven member Commission does not include individuals or organizations with specific and detailed knowledge about deaths in custody.

Deborah Coles, Co-Director of INQUEST said:

INQUEST is concerned about the effectiveness of the Metropolitan Police’s review that has been commissioned without any prior consultation or discussion with those best placed to speak from experience: the families and organisations such as INQUEST that work directly with them. The independent experts involved in the review have considerable mental health expertise but there is a glaring omission of anyone with specialist knowledge and a history of work on deaths following police contact.

Following the damning verdict returned at the inquest into the death of Sean Rigg, INQUEST called for a review of how the police and mental health providers work together to respond to people in crisis and in conflict with the law. INQUEST and the families with whom we work want, and would welcome, a rigorous and critical review which draws on recommendations from previous investigations, inquests and reviews and examine what happened to them. Without this expertise, the review may fail to address the serious issues about policing and mental health that have emerged from previous deaths including the use of restraint and the disproportionate number of deaths of young black men.

Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg, who died in Brixton police station, said:

Since Sean died I have worked alongside other families and the same issues come up time and again. They say they want families involved but failed to consult us in advance or discuss the terms of reference in order for there to be family confidence in the review addressing the issues of most concern to families. My concern is they are trying to avoid dealing with the really important and embarrassing issues about how the police respond to people with mental health problems.

Notes to editors:

Over 30 years, INQUEST has developed a unique understanding of the issues raised by deaths in police custody. Our recent casework with bereaved families has revealed that confidence in the police treatment of people with mental health conditions is at an all-time low. Our case and policy work following some of the most controversial deaths involving the Metropolitan police, from Roger Sylvester’s death in 1999 through to Sean Rigg’s death in 2008 and Olaseni Lewis’ in 2010, gives us a unique insight into this problem.

Following the inquest into the death of Sean Rigg last month INQUEST called for review of the way the police and mental health providers work together to respond to people in crisis and in conflict with the law. INQUEST’s press release can be found here.